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Need my TB brothers help with tuning down a bass to mimic a 5 string

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Lichtaffen, Nov 18, 2010.


  1. Lichtaffen

    Lichtaffen

    Sep 29, 2008
    Rhode Island
    Yeah, weird title for a thread, but I didn't know how to phrase it in one short line.

    Here's the deal: I just landed a substitute gig from my bass teacher. It's a killer soul band with an awesome male singer. The songs range from Teddy Pendergrass to James Brown to Bobby Womack, etc. I basically have to learn about 20 songs in less than a week. It's a dream gig that I can't mess up.

    Here's the problem: My teacher told me the singer changes keys to most songs to accommodate his range. Not a problem if you have a 5 string, right? Well, I just sold my Sadowsky RV5 last week because it wasn't getting much use. Dumb move. So I'm thinking my solution is to do what I read Pino Palladino does, tune your bass down to C (or whatever appropriate key). The question is essentially can I just use the usual strings on the bass (probably 45 to 105 or so) or do I have to go to a heavier gauge string, thus having to file the nut? The latter is not an option since I don't know how to do it myself and I'm not going to file an expensive bone nut down. The basses in question are either a USA Lakland Bob Glaub or a Lakland Skyline Joe Osborn. Does anyone know what the highest gauge Laklands can accommodate without modification?

    Can anyone give me a bit of advice on this issue?
     
  2. FunkMetalBass

    FunkMetalBass

    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    1. Since you aren't willing to file the nut and get thicker strings, you have no other options other than to play lightly and enjoy the floppy strings.
    2. Or you can buy an extra-light 5-string set (somewhere around .120 - .055) and take it in for a setup to let the tech do it all.
    3. Or you can get over your fear of widening the slots ~0.01" and tackle the very simple procedure.

    Those are really your only options. The tech + strings will probably only cost about $75 for the install and full setup.
     
  3. I've used DR Black Beauties at 105 for drop C. It's a little light, but with adjustments it should be fine.
     
  4. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    Last I checked you could play in all 12 keys on a four string bass guitar in standard tuning (E-A-D-G lowest to highest)
     
  5. Lichtaffen

    Lichtaffen

    Sep 29, 2008
    Rhode Island
    Not when you're playing "Signed Sealed Delivered" and the lowest note is an F and you have to drop to a lower key. You can't mess with the hook of a song like that IMO. Most lines I can transpose or whatnot, but the hook is the hook.

    I just read that Pino uses heavy gauge Labella Flats on the bass he tunes down to DGCF. That might solve the problem. I have a set of Labellas on the Alleva Coppolo (granted it's not the Jamerson gauge, I think mine are 50 - 110), so I may try this. I'll just do what FunkMetalBass suggested and play lightly and turn the amp up. There will only be a few songs where I need to go lower than E.
     
  6. JLS

    JLS

    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Having only 4 strings didn't appear to hinder James Jamerson at all...

    (And I'm a confirmed 5 stringer, since 1988)
     
  7. JLS

    JLS

    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Rent/borrow a 5 string. Might be less than strings/having the nut filed. Trying to play a normal set of strings tuned down a fourth is a bad, bad joke...
     
  8. Hey, help the OP with his question. These threads always turn in to "this guy didn't need it" or "get a 5 string". That is not what he's asking.
     
  9. Lichtaffen

    Lichtaffen

    Sep 29, 2008
    Rhode Island
    Thank you!

    Seriously, I love and worship James Jamerson, but I'm Ara Ghajanian. I'm a 41 year old man with small hands, limited natural musical ability and only been playing bass seriously for 3 years. Jamerson played upright for 10 or so years before landing the Motown gig. Plus I have a non musical full time profession that doesn't allow me to practice more than 3 hours a day at the most. Jamerson played 8 hours a day in the studio on a P bass and then went out at night and played another 6 hours in jazz clubs on an upright. Nothing personal, JLS, but that is one of the most unrealistic points of view I've ever read on this forum.
     
  10. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    Parev Ara jan

    I'd just take it up an octave where necessary.

    Alec Derian in Cambridge MA
     
  11. Codymb

    Codymb

    Mar 26, 2007
    Burlington, NC
    Personally, I don't see what all the hub-bub is about. I regularly tune down my standard gauge E string to D or even C. No string swapping, no nut filing. There is only a slight reduction in tension and no loss of of tone. Just because your string is designed to accommodate a certain tension doesn't mean that it's not capable of another. Just drop it down and do the gig.
     
  12. Lichtaffen

    Lichtaffen

    Sep 29, 2008
    Rhode Island
    Parev Alec,
    That's what my teacher was telling me too. I hate loosing that low end, but if that's what a guys gotta do...
     
  13. Lichtaffen

    Lichtaffen

    Sep 29, 2008
    Rhode Island
    Do you use a drop tuner or just retune when necessary?
     
  14. Codymb

    Codymb

    Mar 26, 2007
    Burlington, NC
    I just re-tune when necessary. If you can tune quickly you can pull off a gig where you just tune in between songs and use the same bass for every song. I do it all the time. It's not hard.
     
  15. Lazarus.Bird

    Lazarus.Bird Mr. Personality

    Aug 16, 2010
    Pittsburgh
    This. Completely different genre, but I was playing my SR700 4 string in a death metal band tuned to C# and with a proper setup my D'Addario XL mediums were just fine.
     
  16. NOLA Bass

    NOLA Bass Mr. Worst Case Scenario Man Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    New Orleans LA
    I am in a band that tunes down to D. I use .50-110's
     
  17. tdub0199

    tdub0199

    Mar 4, 2010
    Atlanta, Ga.
    ^THIS..... I play a four string dropped down to C with no Mods what so ever and have a good tone..... I don't really see a problem here.....?????
     
  18. There's always been hate for non standard tunings on this forum. It's sad, really.
     
  19. Codymb

    Codymb

    Mar 26, 2007
    Burlington, NC
    Thanks for backing me up on this guys.

    Lichtaffen, a lot of people will tell you that when you're making minor adjustments like this you'll need to make all kinds of accommodations, and that's just not the case. You could play in all kinds of crazy tunings before you have to make any serious adjustments. Where as I don't really recommend tuning up very far, you can tune down 'till your strings buzz. And besides, it certainly doesn't seem to me like you want to do anything crazy, you just want to play your 4-string and still be able to hit a low F every now and then. In which case you will be perfectly fine just reaching up there and twisting your tuning key between songs. So I recommend you do just that, play your bass the way it is, save some money on new strings and have fun at your gig. Now go practice those 20 songs and stop worrying about nut filing and similar nonsense.
     
  20. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    These guys are right.

    If you do decide to tune down you really don't have to do anything else.

    Have fun
     

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